Work

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One of my favorite lines in ‘A Fish Called Wanda‘ is when they are planning the jewel heist and the lead thief (forgot his name) says: We won’t have to look for work and work won’t have to look for us. Lovely! What a wonderful idea. If only we could all be so wealthy that we wouldn’t have to work. Someone — robots maybe — could do it for us. And we could… what? Lay on a beach, sipping piña coladas and reading trashy novels?

I suspect that would get tired pretty quick. Do you ever wonder why the kids of rich people so often get so famously in trouble, embarking on all sorts of self-destructive paths or engaging in ’causes’ that sometimes wind up doing more harm than good?

Though I do prefer the latter behavior to the former. At least they are engaging with the world and not merely consuming it.

Work shall set you free? For those who don’t know, that was the sign over the gates to Auschwitz. But the Nazis meant work as slavery and freedom as death.

Japan is an interesting place when it comes to work; their language may be the only one with a word that means very specifically — to die from overwork. How often does it happen that they actually need a word for it?

I live in a cautious love-hate relationship to work. I seem to be doing it all the time whether it is my job as a policy advisor to a Senator or as a publisher, a writer or, even, a blogger. Endless lists of things to do that seem to get longer every time I cross a task off the list. Yet, I constantly fret that I’m not doing enough, not accomplishing all the goals I set for myself. How am I going to change the world, for goodness sake, when I m just so damn busy?

Yet I can’t imagine a life without productive work. Everything I do suggests a productive project. My mind constantly seeks new challenges. Still, I also relish my days off, my times of simply listening to music or looking at gardens. My times of complete mental and emotional stillness. I can’t live without work but I can’t let work become my life either.

Work defines us whether we like it or not. People try to avoid that conclusion by separating their job from their vocation. But to be really happy you have to embrace the work that is your love and love the work that is your necessity. It’s hard enough to get up in the morning as it is if you can’t look forward to something in the workaday world to make you happy. Or at least satisfied.

It’s a state of mind. One you have to work at.

But that’s ten minutes.

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